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Tag Archives: Avian Medical Emergency

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Lumps, Abscesses, Tumors and Swellings on Budgerigars and other Birds (Part I)


Swollen areas and assorted growths are regularly seen on the otherwise hearty budgerigars (parakeets) and, less commonly, on other parrots, finches and softbills. Ranging from harmless to quite serious, these typically arise from trauma, abscesses, tumors, ruptured air sacs, hernias, cysts or egg-binding, but other -less obvious maladies may also be at work.

A Caution

The following remarks, while written with budgerigars in mind, are applicable to all types of birds. Please note that they are provided as guidelines, to help you understand what might be happening… only a veterinarian can accurately diagnose your bird’s medical problems.

Even benign growths, if accompanied by shivering, loss of appetite, breathing difficulties or similar symptoms, are cause for concern and necessitate an immediate visit to your veterinarian.

Ruptured Air Sacs

Budgerigars and other birds may rupture air sacs by flying into windows or other obstacles during their time out of the cage. Bird-proofing flight rooms and gradually adjusting your pet to such will go a long way in alleviating this problem. Less commonly, air sacs may be damaged when startled birds crash into cage bars or walls.

A swollen area along the breast, which emits a characteristic “crackling” sound when gently touched, is a sure sign of a ruptured air sac. Unless involving a huge area, air sac damage usually resolves quickly on its own.


Trauma-related injuries that do not involve air sacs may result in hematomas…swollen, blood-filled injuries below the skin (in people, such are often called “black-and-blues”, but skin color change will not usually be evident in a bird).

Resulting from broken blood vessels, the pooled blood typical of hematomas is usually re-absorbed by the bird without incident.



Avian abscesses present as swollen, painful, reddish areas that are warm to the touch. The swollen area, or abscess, is filled with white blood cells and other blood borne compounds produced by the bird to battle infection. The abscess usually also contains dead tissue and living and dead bacteria or other pathogens. Budgerigars often exhibit abscesses below the eye, but they may also occur on the feet, in the mouth and at other locations.

As a defense measure, the abscess has been walled off from the rest of the bird’s body, but the toxins and bacteria contained therein can escape and spread via the blood to vital organs. This can happen very quickly, and usually has fatal results. Therefore, all abscesses should be treated promptly by a veterinarian.

Gout, a disease that takes hold when uric acid is stored in the joints and internal organs, sometimes produces abscess-like growths on the feet of budgerigars. Known as tophi, these growths will bleed extensively if impacted or cut, and should be addressed by a veterinarian.


Tumors are often difficult to identify specifically, and may arise from a wide variety of diseases and conditions. Fatty tumors are usually benign and require monitoring but no other treatment, while others may be malignant.

Any unusual growth or swelling that you notice should be examined by a veterinarian. A biopsy may be used to confirm the doctor’s diagnosis if there is any doubt as to the nature of the problem.

Next time we’ll complete our review of noxious bird bumps with a look at feather cysts and cloacal swellings. Until then, please write in with your questions and comments.

Further Reading

You can access a detailed article concerning the types of tumors that afflict budgerigars here.


Avian Medical Emergencies: Burns

Avian Medical Emergencies: What to do if Your Pet Bird Receives a Burn Injury


Birds at large in our homes, especially the ever-curious parrots, are at risk for burn injuries. If this happens, calm, quick and medically-appropriate action is absolutely essential if your pet is to survive.

First Step: First Aid

Areas burned by fire, liquid or chemicals should be flushed for 15-20 minutes with cool (not cold) water and then covered with a cool, sterile dressing. Use only medical dressings to cover the afflicted area, as the fibers from blankets, towels and other such materials may stick to the wound. If feathers or other debris have worked their way into the burn site, leave them in place…these should be attended to by a veterinarian.

Grease, butter and ointments should not be used, as they cause a rise in skin temperature and increased pain. Also avoid ice, and do not puncture any blisters that form.

Second Step: To the Vet
All burns require veterinary intervention. Be sure to call your vet with your estimated arrival time – injured birds often go into shock, and time is of the essence. Transport your pet in a warm (use a hot water bottle or plastic bag filled with warm water), dark container and disturb it as little as possible on route.

Electrical Shock and Burns – Your Own Safety Comes First!
Electrical burns are another matter, as CPR and assisted breathing may be necessary…I’ll address this in the future.

In the meanwhile, if your bird suffers an electrical shock (i.e. by biting an appliance cord), it is absolutely essential that you do not touch the bird until you are certain that it is no longer in contact with the current – no good will come from having 2 shock victims!

If the bird is in contact with the electrical current, shut the power from the source (i.e. circuit breaker) or move the wire or appliance away from the bird with a non-metallic object (i.e. wood, plastic, cardboard).

Further Reading
Burns are only one of the hazards that our avian friends may run into while under our care. For a discussion of the leading causes of pet bird deaths, please see http://www.exoticpetvet.net/avian/topten.html.


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